Happy Place: Annie's Café, 3100 East Colfax Avenue, 303-355-8197
The Hours: Daily from 3 to 6 p.m., and 9 p.m. to close.
The Deals: $2 PBR cans and all draft beer; $3 house wine and well drinks; $5 well martinis and mini margaritas; $3 food specials.
Were we happy? Flip the page to find out.
The Digs: Annie's Café recently celebrated her thirtieth anniversary, a large milestone for any business to reach, especially a restaurant. Luckily, the folks over at Annie's know how to run a diner, and they do it well. On paper, the idea of a 1950s-themed diner, complete with vintage posters and a candy counter, seems pretty cliché. But once you've walked inside, you'll be sad you left your poodle skirt at home -- and you'll secretly wish that the servers were cruising around on roller skates.
Annie's Café spent the majority of her life in a space formerly occupied by a drugstore on the corner of Eighth Avenue and Colorado Boulevard. The place was always packed with families enjoying burgers and milkshakes, and on the weekends, hungover med students formed lines down the street in eager anticipation of breakfast burritos and hot coffee. When Annie's moved to East Colfax in the summer of 2008, people wondered if it would lose some of the vintage charm; it didn't. In fact, the East Colfax digs (which used to house Goodfriends) fit like a glove. Even better, this Annie's has a bar and lounge area, complete with a liquor license. We like.
The Verdict: We strolled into Annie's on a crowded Wednesday evening. Servers whizzed past us with hot plates and the Beach Boys sang "Wouldn't It Be Nice?" as we approached the bar. The bartender greeted us immediately with a warm smile; she's the kind of barkeep you could trust immediately -- one you could dump your life story on after a couple of martinis. The happy hour beverages are dirt cheap at Annie's, making it difficult to pick your poison; even more difficult is choosing what to eat. The array is top notch: Sloppy Joe sliders, nachos, chicken nuggets, chili-cheese fries...the list goes on. Based on wise advice from our bartender, we decided to go with the chili-cheese fries -- and then became very comfortable in our bar stools.
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The atmosphere at Annie's is a joyous comfort, and it's easy to feel welcome even if you've never been there before. Down the bar, three women, who appeared to be off duty employees, discussed their work schedules while sipping cocktails. Their bonds were sisterly, strong friendships built after doing serious time in the trenches of the service industry. A lone biker, clad in leather and sporting the most serious mustache we've ever seen, chatted with the bartender about his daughter. Around us, co-workers loosened their neckties over beers, and mothers drank martinis with their grown daughters. If nothing else, the guests at Annie's arrive sans pretense Tthey are real.
And God bless the chili-cheese fries. The last time we gasped at a happy hour plate like that was at A Coté -- and it was for an entirely different genre of deliciousness. Annie's chili-cheese fries come drenched in cheddar, oven-melted to perfection, and you can see traces of the thick, hand-cut tubers and green chili below. The green chili, packed with plump bits of pork, is superb, and miraculously, the fries hold their consistency without becoming a soggy mess (or maybe we were just eating really fast). The entire plate, which pairs heavenly with a pint of beer, requires a fork, steadfast willpower and a strong urge to share with a good buddy.
Overall Grade: A